Tag Archives: tnl

People We Remember

Recently, TNL read in Straits Times that a certain Japanese MBA student was found killed at a back alley at Bukit Pasoh.

Her heart skipped a beat when she read the name. When she continued reading, bits of information started confirming that the student was the same grad student who asked her what was the easiest question she had to answer (see post).

It is startling. It seems odd that this person whom you spoke to just a while ago isn’t going to speak to you again. It is the same startling “No, this can’t be” of when a lecturer you knew died of a sudden heart attack or succumbed to his illness when you didn’t even know he was sick.

Many of us at the library remember our lecturers who have passed on. We remember the conversations we had with them, their particular habits and their characteristics as we serve them. They don’t completely go.

Likewise, we remember Taka.

More Questions

Thanks, Rain, for commenting on TNL’s last post on questions. Here is one more.

TNL had a perculiar week of students at different times asking questions that allude to one specific request:

What information do you retrieve when you read?

So basically, the conversations went on something like this:

What parts do I use for my assignment or thesis? Can I ignore the methodology? Do I have to read the introduction? Can I just read the results and then, the conclusion? Is reading the abstract enough? How do I correlate what the author is saying with my assignment?

It seems with much information, comes much vexing. 

What can the old girl say? Read the whole article, lah!

No, it isn’t as simple as that. You can tell the kid to eat her veggies but bottom line is spinach still tastes green, bitter, slimy, squishy, raw and downright-unMac-like.

Everybody has a certain way of gleaning bits of information that is relevant to them at that point in time for that specific purpose.

Remember when you were a kid fully absorbed in a Nancy Drew (ok, lah, way back then)? Skipping those fiddly words meant getting to the exciting parts a whole lot faster.

TNL has lots to read. Some she enjoys, some she would rather wait until the cows come home. But you know, some sifting, gleaning, filtering process just kicks in when she has a mountain to read. Come to think of it, maybe she should bottle this process and make a bundle.

So what should TNL have suggested to our students?

What is the Easiest Question?

Librarians get a lot of questions. Most of the time, students want answers. Sometimes, they just want to make a point.

So when TNL was asked recently, what is the easiest question she has had to answer, the old girl paused and looked around for the hidden camera. Camera aside, the grad student who asked the stumper insisted TNL answered his question.

You know, folks, another thing to note about questions. One is never enough. So before TNL knew it, she was sucked into a convoluted discussion with the student on water desalination, revenues, government support, bonds, R&D, water consumption, primary data vs. secondary data, noise levels in libraries, study habits, alumni access to electronic resources. It just went on.

The easiest question should have been answered, shouldnt it? And it was Frost and Sullivan. There you go.

Here is another one.  How do you retrieve a list of MNCs in Singapore?

1. Use Osiris.

2. Select Expert Search. At Search Criteria Locator, look at Ownership Data, select Foreign Subsidiaries.

3. Ensure Foreign Country is Singapore.


Six-Dinner Sid by Inga Moore

TNL loves kiddy books.

Especially when the story and illustrations are so good that they come together to give you such a pleasant, happy experience that either makes you chuckle or wish you were in the story too.  

Sid is a clever black cat who lives in 6 different houses because he wants 6 dinners. His owners all love him but do not know about each other. Then, he got sick and his 6 owners brought him to the vet which resulted in him taking his medicine 6 times. The smart old vet noticed the same black cat and told on him. What happens to Sid after that wraps up the story beautifully.

The story comes alive because of the subtle cheekiness of the cat that permeates through the simple lines. Ms Moore creates each personality of the owner through her pictures and the names they give Sid.

We have a glimpse of the personalities of each owner in the roles Sid plays in each house. He is Bob the no-nonsense mouse catcher, Sooty the smoocher, silly Sally who loves to play, Scaramouche the one who sits proudly on a cushion and Schwartz the one who chases after dogs.

The ending is lovely and is guaranteed to bring a smile to any sour-puss’ face.

Oh, Sweet, Sweet Silence…

TNL lost her voice.

It may have been somewhere between Sentosa and Upper Bukit Timah. Very likely between Sunday afternoon and evening. And no, it wasn’t typically careless of her. She doesn’t quite lose it often. The loss, as you can imagine, was an inconvenience the poor old girl would rather not have.

What is a librarian without her voice? A quiet one, silly.

Her colleagues will tell you what a relief it is not to have hear that crotchety voice gradually building up to a high-pitched whine. The only reason her colleagues may want her voice back is when the Semester starts and her information literacy programmes start with its usual high numbers. Such friends she has.

But you know good old TNL. She can’t quite stay away. You can just about hear her nasally whine on online chat at the Marketing Subject Guide or the Strategy & Policy Subject Guide (“Why doesn’t anybody want to hear me talk?”).

The Riddle

The Sphinx gave us a riddle recently. Oh, pppleeasse…Give us a break, man/woman. 

And mind you, we did NOT google it. The riddle was part of our childhood when stories from books brought us into realms of fantasies no web site could (ok, maybe for some people, some websites do, ugggh). 

You want a riddle? Here’s one:

Why is a raven like a writing desk?

 Come on, post your answer. And without googling first. :-P

Helping Out

TNL met up with a friend who left librarianship to become a monk. It had been more than a year since they last spoke due to him preparing himself for a new life. The meeting left TNL going home with a quiet heart that looked inwards.

It has been 6 months since TNL stopped volunteering at the community services center.  After 4 years of teaching English to secondary school kids, she decided she was getting tired. The kids had moved on to ITE and so forth and TNL thought it was time to take a break. Oh, she misses the kids but they were going to different things now.

TNL believes in each one of us there is a switch that causes us to want to help, to volunteer, to serve, to make a difference in the world. Depending on how this switch is made, there will be a situation which will inevitably trigger it and then, awesome things will start happening.

In John Wood’s case, he discovered that books were inaccessible to the kids in Nepal. To my friend, the monk, he wanted to give what we have so abundantly here to the needy in India. And to a dear close friend, she wanted the old and lonely to feel cared for. 

The degree of “helping out” varies. Giving a lift to a friend with a broken a leg is helping out. So is sending a million dollar cheque to the victims of an earthquake. So is building thousands of libraries, caring for the sick and dying or holding an old lady’s gnarled hand. The issue here is sustainability. How far can you go?

What drives John? It has been 10 years. Seeing the growing number of kids reading? What endears my friend to work part-time, maintain a car so that she can take an old lady out every week? How is the monk friend always able to see beyond the suffering and the poverty to give gently and graciously?

Could it possibly be love? The desire to help, to make a change starts it off. But to commit to it, perhaps that desire to help has to be transformed to loving the person or to loving someone. TNL reckons it not loving the process of change, the growth numbers, the fruits of your labour. Maybe at the beginning but not after awhile. And she doesn’t think it is this thing about “doing good” either. Because sooner or later, we will start asking – then what?

For the past few weeks, things seem to be nudging and bugging TNL. It is time to get out of this muddy hole she is in. She remembers the love that sustained her all those 4 years. Once you experience it, you don’t quite forget.

TNL has started asking around and she might just move away from teaching kids and try something else. And doesn’t she usually keep you posted? Of course, she does. :)

Room to Read

When you put a pic of a cool-looking dude distributing books to kids and match it with a headline that has “libraries” in it, you can be sure as getting the flu from Sneezy sitting  beside you in the bus, that TNL’s attention is caught hook, line and sinker. I mean, come one, cool dude with books and kids – what can be more appealing to a little old librarian?

There was this article in Saturday’s Straits Times (26 June 2010, page B7) that tells of a John Wood who left his job in Microsoft so that he can get books to the children in Nepal. John started with donating 3,000 books to a Nepalese school. It has been 10 years now and there are 10,000 libraries set up by the non-profit organization Room to Read. Good on you, John and good on you, the Singapore chapter of Room to Read. As far as TNL is concerned, books always make things a tad better anywhere. Ok, enough of air time for John Wood and Room to Read.

Questions started popping up in TNL’s little mind after reading the article. Are these English books? If they are not, do they have a good range of Nepalese kids’ books? What stories are these? Do the kids read them themselves? Do teachers or librarians read to them regularly? Are these libraries accessible to every kid?

Way back in 2004, TNL started reading to little kids at a community centre. It was a weekly thing. TNL being an academic librarian, she doesn’t get a chance to read to little kids at her library. Oh, it’s ok. TNL loves being an academic librarian – dealing with “big” kids is, sometimes, let me see… as exciting an adventure as sending a convoy of book-laden donkeys up the Himalayan mountains. You just know you are going to get there. Somehow.

Anyway, reading to kids is about the most enjoyable thing you could ever, ever do. Seriously. No matter what happens – kids running around, pushing each other just to get to the front or even repeatedly asking questions before you even start reading… you know it is pure, unadulterated joy.

When you read, don’t focus on making the story sound enjoyable or fun (I mean, that helps too), but look at the kids. Look at how some would stare completely wrapped up in the book you are holding up, in your voice, the words that come out of your mouth and the fact that you are telling them something really cool. Look at their expressions. Their half-smiles. Their frowns. Their opened mouths. Their body language – leaning on one arm, sliding to the floor on their tummies, moving closer to sit beside you, reaching out to turn the page before you do.

And you know the best part is something you usually don’t get to see – the kid starting to pull books out of the shelves on her own to read or going home to tell her Mum or her kid sister about this princess who saved her boyfriend wearing only a paper bag or this puny boy who drew out a sword from a rock when nobody else could and became king.

TNL has since stopped her weekly stint at the community centre. She misses the kids and most of all, reading to them.

But kudos to Linus Lin, the writer of the ST article for writing this piece. And also for putting a 10 year old photo of a cool dude, kids and books with a statement like “46-year-old Wood, who is currently single”. It just nearly got this little old librarian to pack her nieces’ shelves of books to send the whole lot to Nepal.

 TNL has just got to get herself one of these John Woods for her information literacy programmes. That should work.

So What’s Up with Copying & Pasting?

We, academic librarians, we teach our students how to search for information for their assignments, projects and dissertations regularly.   In the course of working with lecturers, some lecturers have asked us to talk briefly on plagiarism and the various citation styles they could use. The lecturers’ main concern is to make their students aware of plagiarism.

Ask any student why they would copy and paste without citing and most of them will say, “Fast, mah. No time.” Whether or not they plagiarise is not the issue. They just want to get their assignments done. There is way too much to do and oh, so very little time. 

Do they know it is wrong to plagiarise? Most do. Our university has plagiarism FAQs, Academic Culture module and lecturers have been going on and on about plagiarism.

So what if students know plagiarism is a no-no?

Is it about being penalized versus taking the risk? Caught between the devil and deep blue sea, it is very likely, they may just go with the flow.

The issue is simply coping (not copying, duhh…). Coping with doing what is right and with the little time they have.

If you ask them to cite everything they copy and paste to make things kosher, well, of course, they will cite everything. I mean, everything. So this is not plagiarism, right? I cite, what. All also, I cite.

Students need to learn to take the information, anaylse it and write about it. Not regurgitate. Write. Without plagiarizing. Prof Mark Featherstone hit the nail when he said students were “unaware of how to present the words and ideas of others in a way that gave credit where credit was due” (ST Forum, June 15 , 2010).

That is just “the presenting of ideas” bit.

We and our students deal with vast amounts of information all the time. When students do a search in an academic database and find some really cool articles, some students would start writing straightaway. Some will stumble on articles that they could use for other assignments. After a while they are going to wonder which piece of information belongs to which article, ah? And where is that article in my many folders of articles?

We teach EndNote. It is a bibliographic management software. What it does is it helps you download the citations in your information searches so that you can retrieve them to insert the footnotes and create your reference lists when you write. Our EndNote hands-on sessions are over-subscribed all the time. We also have EndNote sessions in lecture theatres. And the page views of our EndNote online guides are high. Not to mention our web page on citation styles.

I believe our students want to get things right. They do. Despite all they say about grades, they want to learn and learn well.

And we need to provide them with an environment in which they:

1. Write without plagiarizing.

2. Manage information efficiently and effectively.

3. Cite correctly.

All in all – students need to use and communicate information responsibly and legally.

The Naked Librarian Takes a Hiatus

Well, friends, TNL needs to go on a little break from LINUS Blog.

Her library is renovating and you wonder what could she possibly be so involved in to take a break. Leave it to them brawny contractors and spare Her Delicateness, don’t you think? How very true…hmmm… brawny contractors…. oh, well. Anyway, TNL will continue to blog but now at: http://blog.nus.edu.sg/hssmlreno/.

Adieu and see you over at the reno blog.